In Review: War Room

The Power of a Praying Wife

Priscilla Shirer and Karen Abercrombie shine in War Room, the latest inspirational flick from the Kendrick Brothers. It hardly seems possible that this is the same studio that brought us “Facing the Giants” (bless). Don’t be deceived by the title, however. This is nowhere near a macho battle-soaked action movie. At least, not in the physical realm. Instead, War Room focuses on the power of prayer. In a bold way uncommon to sugar-coated Christian media, the story hinges on the reality of a “present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12) that “seeks to steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

Yet, the less overtly stated faith lesson from the film is discipleship. Clara Williams, an elderly woman selling her home, becomes a spiritual mentor for her real estate agent, Elizabeth Jordan. Karen Abercromie’s Clara leads Priscilla Shirer’s Liz to a life-changing practice: spending time in prayer each day “going to war” for her marriage against her true enemy – not her husband, Clara corrects, but Satan himself. The real feat for the Kendricks is how relatable these characters seem. Yes, I’m a single white girl, not a working mom or a gospel-singing widow, but I felt like I could truly be friends with Liz (and ask her for fashion tips. Serious kudos to costume designer Anna Redmon on the cute clothing! Now take me shopping.) While husband Tony is clearly set up to be the jerk-turned-Man of God from the outset, it’s Liz’s transformation that captivates.

 

But First, A Red Flag

I will take the opportunity here to warn viewers: if you have been wife-shamed, this may not be the movie for you. While War Room makes it clear that Liz and Tony are both sinners in need of redemption and that it’s really God in power working to change them (not Liz’s behavior modification or something legalistic), it would be far too easy to reduce this story to a tool to blame wives for their husbands’ sin. “If you would only pray harder, he wouldn’t cheat/lie/neglect/abuse…” the hurting woman hears far too often. But, in my opinion, War Room avoids this shaming with carefully nuanced emotional depth and biblical Truth. Liz is easy to identify with if you’ve ever been in any relationship (friendship, family, whatever) that has devolved into the “needs divine intervention” category.

Unfortunately, not all “Tony”s in our real lives end up repenting or working to restore broken relationships. In the world outside the movies, faithful men and women and children pray and see no fruit for many years, if ever. The question of unanswered prayer would have spoiled such an encouraging film, however, particularly as American audiences (myself included) would rather have a happy ending than a painful, more realistic one that leaves us wrestling with God’s promises of faithfulness and presence. The s-word (submission) is brought up at one point, but is graciously comedic in the hands of Beth Moore. Though the Bible Study Queen’s role is tragically short, this reviewer hopes to see more of her in future funny Christian movies, perhaps exchanging wit with the delightful Mrs. Shirer once more.

 

Go for Yourself, Not to Convert Anyone Overall, War Room is a powerful sermon, a fun night out for your church’s women’s ministry, a solid pick for family movie night and a beacon of hope for those in need of encouragement (“Yes! Prayer works!” the message screams, not unconvincingly). While completely unchurched friends will need a thorough, perhaps complicated, explanation of spiritual warfare before engaging this storyline, your average spiritually bored, lukewarm, burned out or doubting churchgoers can expect to find themselves surprised by the chill bumps on their arms as Shirer’s character finds her inner lioness and lets loose her roar of faith.

 

May War Room’s beautiful North Carolina homes and the imperfect families inside challenge you to not only deepen your own prayer life, but to find someone else struggling to show the way. As old Miss Clara says from the start: “There are no victories by accident.” War Room opens in theaters August 28.

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